Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White Night

Somewhere I read the term "White Night" to refer to a sleepless night where worries and demons just get the better of you. I'm having one of those. They are rare for me now that I take an antidepressant. But I'm having one this morning. It is 4 am.

My worry this morning is not family. My anxiety is all about my professional life. It is the end of the term. I gave final exams the past two days. I graded yesterday and will grade more today. It has been a good term. I was told by a student that my class was his favorite of his college career so far. (He may have been trying to butter me up...) I've been told by a homesick international student that I'm the only faculty member she can talk with. I established a fragile rapport with a minority student who struggled in my class; he works very hard, but spins his wheels. I don't think I helped him learn the material, but I think I gave him a bit of confidence in himself. All I'm trying to do is teach music theory. It is rewarding that I seem to be able to teach more than that. I genuinely care about these young people.

So, perhaps, it is the transition from full speed teaching to several weeks of blissful time at home that has my mind working overtime.

I enjoy teaching. I love teaching. But I'm alone all day every day in my office. Grading papers. Preparing classes. Sending emails to graduate teaching assistants. I have no interaction with peers. I say hello in the hall to colleagues. We chat briefly. That is it. I can't find time for longer, more rewarding interactions. Thus, I find teaching very isolating. And teaching is not challenging. It is rewarding, but not challenging.

I am doing no administrative work this year. That has been my source of peer to peer interaction over the past 23 years. I find administrative work both rewarding and challenging.

I'm trying to work up a research agenda for the next year or two. I want to apply for a leave for next year. Research is even more isolating than teaching, and has always been my least favorite part of the academic life. It is an enormous challenge for me to stay motivated and focused on my own research. Clearly it is my weakest area as a professional, and the rewards have come rarely if at all.

Top all of this churning around in my brain with an email yesterday from a colleague that referred to the "new and very effective administration" in the School, where I was part of the old, and I guess ineffective administration. That statement reinforces the fact that my administrative career is over. My decision last summer to walk away from a stressful conflict still feels like the right one, but the long term consequences of my decision are distressing. I guess that is what has me up at 4 am. I'm still coming to terms with what the rest of my professional life will look like. The goals I had for the past 10 or 20 years have to be revised for the next 10.

Thanks for listening. I think I'll go play solitaire now and take my mind off this nonsense.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

I hope there aren't many more "White Nights" in your future.